Left In Lowell

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March 10, 2009

Your EPA - Now, With More Environment!

by at 3:58 pm.

Elections have consequences! Tomorrow, President Obama’s EPA will be hearing the case from California, Massachusetts, and other states who are interested in raising auto emission standards in an effort to combat the global climate crisis. This can be done under the existing Clean Air Act, which gives CA the right to tougher rules and for other states to adopt CA’s standards after, but the Bush administration denied CA a waiver in 2005 when they passed the new standards.

From the press release of Environment Massachusetts:

Giving a green light to Massachusetts’ clean cars program would reduce global warming pollution from cars by 26.1 million metric tons by 2020. And from reduced gasoline consumption, Bay Staters would save $5 Billion by 2020 at the pump, according to Environment Massachusetts’ analysis.
In 2005, California adopted first-of-their-kind standards requiring cars and light-duty trucks to limit emissions that contribute to global warming. The standards would cut global warming emissions from passenger vehicles by 30 percent by 2016. A total of 13 other states—Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia —have adopted the tailpipe standards. Several additional states are actively considering adopting the standards.

Finally, we have an Environmental Protection Agency poised to actually protect the environment.

Is Your House In Danger?

by at 1:28 pm.

Via comments in a month-old post on the state of our fire department fleet, “tryin to stay anonymous” gives some context to a recent news item:

You know the DPW truck that burned yesterday? The Sun stated the fire department had trouble getting water on the fire. What the story didn’t say was that it was because the spare engine currently in service at Pine St malfunctioned for a few moments. Their regular engine has brake problems.

Not a big deal if its an ancient city truck burning outside. A very big deal if your inside someone’s burning home holding a hose with no water.

To me, this goes beyond politics and hits us right where we live, literally and figuratively. (I wouldn’t mind if someone confirmed that this is true, not that “tryin” hasn’t been a credible commenter, because he/she has.)

We live in this city, and many of us own homes, and even renters have a lot to lose (their possessions, at the least, and their lives, at the worst) if our fire fighters cannot have the response time that most people would deem essential, due to faulty equipment or the closures of fire houses.

One can hardly blame the firefighters, so who is to blame? The economy…well, certainly money is tight. But we are all to blame, for allowing politically motivated people to demonize government at every turn, to make us believe we don’t need these services, that the cuts won’t hurt - much. Well, they do, and they have, and your house, or your neighbor’s, could be the next victim. This is a problem that has been building for years, and we have cut our nose to spite our face.

God Forbid We Ask Questions

by at 10:07 am.

The furor over School Committee members and access to staff in the schools has prompted SC member and blogger Jackie Doherty to write a response.

Whether I am “on a mission” as one colleague muses, I admit it freely: Yes! I am on a mission to improve our schools. I do that by getting information from all levels of the system, from pre-k to the high school, from administrators, parents, students, teachers, custodians, security officers, community partners—you name it; if they’re involved with our students, I want to learn their perspective and use it to improve our schools. I am always respectful, professional, and mindful of the boundaries.

No policy should preclude the elected body or members of it of asking questions of staff members, with or without permission of the school’s administrator. Of course, whenever possible, or desirable, the administrator should be notified, and certainly interference (a.k.a. micromanagement) in the business of running the school is not appropriate, but what is this hush policy on just talking to the damn teachers all about? Coddling administrators’ egos? Give me a break. We elected these people to be the final line of accountability, but we want to hobble their ability to get information to understand what’s needed or what’s happening in the schools?

Jackie explains:

It becomes even more serious when it is curtailed, as indicated by one administrator insisting all questions to his staff be made in his presence—regardless of chain-of-command approval in his absence or the nature of the questions. (In this case, the question was what the recycling club needed from the city, and the visit included, at the invitation of a teacher, watching a science experiment for five minutes.)

Keee-rist people! This is what were up in arms about? An SC member observing a science experiment and gathering information about a recycling club? Jackie sums it up even better than me: “Far more alarming, however, is the idea that staff may be discouraged, even forbidden, from sharing insights with us. That is not a model for good management, nor does it help move the schools forward. Fortunately, we’re not talking about a private business, we’re talking about our public schools, funded by taxpayers to educate our children under the leadership (and scrutiny) of an elected school committee.”

Just when I think that politics around here grows up ever so slightly, someone proves me wrong…

March 9, 2009

Worst. Self Promoter. Ever.

by at 8:14 am.

If you caught WCAP this morning from about 7:20 to 8pm, you heard myself and Shawn of Dracut Forum having a friendly debate on the air. It was a lot of fun. Shawn and I even found areas of common ground (I think Teddy Panos almost had a heart attack!) and hashed out a lot of local, state, and national issues from our respective points of view.

Once again I failed to put up a post to mention it and let you all know ahead of time. In my defense, our water heater finally gave out this weekend and I was running around dealing with that. (It’s been a brutal winter for house appliance and car repair costs!)

Anyway, every Monday morning you’ll probably find one of us, myself or Mimi, in the blogger’s timeslot between 7 and 8am, so tune in every week! Next week you’ll hear from Mimi, and I’ll be back in two weeks.

LiL - Affecting National Policy on Coins?

by at 7:46 am.

Jackie wrote about the Globe article which mentioned that in the Governor’s public online voting about the new Massachusetts coin, the Lowell National Parks make it to second place on the list of possible historic and natural treasures to be depicted on the coin.

Now, the LNHP was behind the Gloucester’s Fisherman’s Memorial by a very large margin. However, if you recall, I linked to and wrote about the voting and encouraged people to show some hometown pride and vote for our own National Park.

I would love to see the list of referring URLs on that particular page! Is this evidence of LiL’s burgeoning ability to (almost) affect the outcome of inconsequential decisions by the federal government? ;)

March 8, 2009

Because of Her…Lowell Women’s Week Award Recipients

by at 8:06 pm.

Lowell Women’s Week will come to an end tomorrow with the Breakfast Celebration that was rescheduled from last Monday due to a snow storm.

The week-long series of event, which included Lectures, films, museum tours, panel discussion, workshop, will culminate with the presentation of the Because of Her Award which “recognizes women who demonstrate a strong commitment to their community through their courage, generosity, compassion, and activism.”

This year three women will be honored:

Gladys Picanso is 90 yrs old and is recognized for her work with the Portugese community over the past 50 yrs. Picanso helped many immigrant families transition from Portugal to the US.

Sandra Creamer is a nurse at Saints Medical Center. About 13 years ago, she became involved in the Chernobyl Children’s Project. She standardized the treatment for approx. 50 children, that visit the US each year to treat the lasting effects of the Chernobyl Nuclear accident. Recently Sandra started the SPINDLE fund, which helps cancer patients at SMC w/ everything from Rx costs, co-pays, groceries and wigs, for those going through cancer treatments.

And our own Kristin Ross-Sitcawich. In addition to her witty comments on LiL, Kristin or K-R-S’s day job is as Program Director at a homeless shelter in Lowell. Everyday she sees to it that her clients, the needest in our society, get excellent quality of care, services while also holding clients accountable for their actions.

As we know she is a political advocate defending the environment and citizens’ rights. She is also a keep-the-canals-clean fanatic. She is on the Board of Canal CleanWaters and chaired their last fundraiser.

Her professional career has made acutely aware of the plight of the homeless. That is why Kristen served as Chairperson of the new Subcommittee to Save Winter Protocol for the LTLC Shelter so that the 30-40 street homeless do not freeze to death this winter. This is a natural extension of her role as chairperson of the Hunger/Homeless Commission. As if that is not enough to make one tired just to think about it, she is an active board member of both Lowell Community Health Center and the Wish Project Furniture Bank

Congratulations to the award recipients.

No, no to nano?

by at 7:00 am.

On Friday, when I read on the Globe’s web site that “the University of Massachusetts Lowell is scuttling plans” to build the $90 million science center, because the University’s building authority cannot borrow the necessary $35 million in this bond market, I was both surprised and disappointed. I thought this was a done deal and construction had begun. Little do I know! I should pay attention.

Back in April 2007 when Governor Deval Patrick came to the school to deliver the down payment on the construction of the technical center, Lynne’s post on the visit and press conference reflected the optimism that we all felt:

The new nanotech building will bring together many disciplines, said MA University system president Jack Wilson. Bio and nano manufacturing will be incubated in the new labs. State Senator Panagiotakos spoke to the efforts that brought the University its funding for this project - 4-5 years of putting together the proposals and getting colleagues’ support. …bringing education, economic development, and job creation together for the greater good, not just in Lowell, but statewide, nationally, and even internationally, as the Senator said.

I heard State Senator Steve Panagiatakos on Warren Shaw’s radio show yesterday. He reiterated what he said to Matt Murphy :

’The markets have made it hard to borrow the total amount, but I don’t think it’s enough to walk away from the project at all, and I’m very disappointed in the remarks,’ Panagiotakos said. ‘On our end, we have never given up on this project and we won’t. It’s too important to the region for sustainable economic development.’

The Senator was not pleased with the sequence of events and even cautioned that if the University does not move forward with the construction, they will have to return the $10 Million to the State. I think that is going to be hard to do; Murphy reports that the money was given for design and permits. I would think that in 2 years a lot of that money has been used for its intended purpose.

All this begs the question, how are you going to afford to build a practice rink, fix the Arena and subsidize its operating costs if you cannot build a science center which is essential to your mission. My suggestion would be for the Lowell City Council to begin formulating Plan B for the Tsongas Arena. I still do not see how the University is going to come up with the funds to make this happen.

School Committee 03.04.09

by at 6:19 am.

We should be paying attention to the Lowell School Committee. Last week’s Jenn Myers’ article on a “debate regarding the role and authority of School Committee” caught my attention. Apparently, the headmaster at the Lowell High told a school committee person that she could not talk to his staff without him being present. F.O.B.s are everywhere! You need to watch this (20 minute) video. It made me cringe.

As I said, not enough people are paying attention to this body; there was a rudeness in the discussion which is inappropriate for a governing body and especially from one that should serve as a role model to children.

March 7, 2009

The PDA Ate My Patrick-Transit Post!

by at 12:32 am.

Well, earlier I had a short-ish post almost fully written about today’s public meeting with Governor Patrick on his transportation reforms and revenue proposal, but the PDA ate my text. Suffice it to say that it was pithy and informative and all that. :) I’ll try to recreate my thoughts as best I can post-3-hour-movie at quarter to midnight. (I’m also hoping to get some - really crappy quality - video up sometime tomorrow.)

First, I wanted to say that it is good to see Patrick again coming back to these local open forums to talk about a major proposal and to hear feedback. Connecting to people is one of his strong suits and leadership is something we in the Commonwealth, battered by poor economic news, really need. Thanks to the Governor and his staff for doing these statewide meetings.

(Update - Jackie was there, too, and posted her thoughts.)


March 6, 2009

Watchmen: Quick Review (No Spoilers!)

by at 11:34 pm.

This week was the debut in theaters of Watchmen, the film adaptation of the 1986-87 comic graphic novel, and we headed out to see it tonight.

For those not a fan of the comic, or who have never read it, it’s an dark alternate-80s world inhabited by vigilantes in masks - all just normal people who know how to fight, except for one, Doctor Manhattan, who is practically omnipotent. Ostensibly, it’s a murder mystery, as the main characters try to find out who killed one of their own.

But Watchmen is so much deeper than that, and in reality, you could read the graphic novel several times and still not reach all the subtleties therein.

Our general consensus (the Mr.’s and mine) is that it was a pretty damn good adaptation of this super-complex story. While a lot has been left out by necessity, they managed to portray most of the larger themes. As for the ending, which I won’t tell you, but which is well known and publicized to be a major deviation from the comic, it is a very interesting choice and works superbly for the story. (Mr. Lynne says it’s even better than the novel version, though I pointed out that there are story elements in the novel that make the ending in it work for it. We agreed that perhaps each ending works for each version of the story.)

The Mr. mildly complained that the acting could have been better, but the actors playing the Comedian, Rorschach, and Doctor Manhattan did really well (Rorschach creeped the hell out of me, as well he should - he delivers some of the best lines in the book or film), and the other actors weren’t bad, just not as good as they could have been. All in all, whether you’ve read and liked the graphic novel or not, you should see this flick, and while it’s in the theaters, for full impact. You should also consider reading the novel if you have not.

Just fair warning - there are some pretty graphic (in the hide-your-face sense) scenes in the film. Having read the comic a few times, I knew just where to turn my head, but it’s pretty gritty.

As for me, I expect to see it a few more times to catch elements I missed the first time around. A good fan should do at least that much!

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